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Edel Rodriguez, the anti-Trump artist: ‘I never draw anything that isn’t true’ | USA

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A reproduction of Edel Rodriguez’s infamous illustration of Donald Trump holding the Statue of Liberty’s head on display at the Carme Center of Contemporary Culture in Valencia.
A reproduction of Edel Rodriguez’s infamous illustration of Donald Trump holding the Statue of Liberty’s head on display at the Carme Center of Contemporary Culture in Valencia.Mònica Torres

Valencia’s Carme Center of Contemporary Culture (CCCC) is currently displaying the work of one of the best-known illustrators of his generation, a status Edel Rodriguez has gained largely through eye-catching magazine covers against former US president Donald Trump, which have been published over the last five years in international media such as Time and Der Spiegel. But the origin of this exhibition is not so much the foreign press, but rather an old Valencian satirical magazine called La Traca, which ceased publication in 1938. During the filming of a documentary called Carceller, el Hombre que Murió Dos Veces (or Carceller, the Man who Died Twice), based on the lives of the former editor of the Republican magazine, Vicent Miquel Carceller, and one of its main contributing artists, Carlos Gómez – both of whom were shot by the Francisco Franco regime in 1940 – the filmmakers sought out Rodriguez for the Cuban-American artist’s views on caricature and the historical role of the authorities in attempting to stifle creative freedom.

Rodriguez has become a reference point in the profession for his political non-conformism and his bold illustrations, such as the one of a melting Donald Trump published in Time in August 2016 or his drawing of the former president holding the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty in Der Spiegel in February 2017. During the recent US presidential elections, he also produced work for EL PAÍS. He agreed to contribute to the documentary after hearing the story of the weekly La Traca, which had a circulation of almost 500,000 copies and whose editors faced the firing squad for dedicating themselves to “insulting the highest-ranking representatives of Spanish Nationalism, the dignity of the Catholic Church and the founding principles of the Francoist regime in the basest, rudest and most vulgar way possible, using the popularity it had gained over the years for the benefit of Marxist subversion.”

Edel Rodriguez’s Goya-inspired illustration for ‘The Nation.’
Edel Rodriguez’s Goya-inspired illustration for ‘The Nation.’

From that collaboration, during the Trump administration’s mandate, a relationship blossomed that resulted in the Valencia exhibition, where 124 of Rodriguez’s works have been reproduced in different forms with a special focus on his illustrations of the former president and his tenure in the Oval Office. The austerity of the Gothic cloister of what was the convent of El Carmen contrasts starkly with the huge black and red images depicting an unhinged Trump. Rodriguez’s work featured on around 20 front pages during Trump’s presidency, generating enormous impact and being reproduced on a large scale worldwide. With that came an increase in threats on social media.

“Well, things have calmed down a bit,” says Rodriguez from his studio near New York during a Zoom interview with EL PAÍS in March. “It was very noticeable what influence a president can have and what he can cause, the mood he can generate among his supporters. I’ve been working since 1994 but it’s only since what happened with Trump that I’ve become well-known. When I started doing those front pages with him, I got calls from television producers and newspapers and although I have US citizenship, I am still an immigrant and it was a risk to take him on, with everything that he was doing.”

Edel Rodriguez‘s covers for the German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ featuring Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Edel Rodriguez‘s covers for the German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ featuring Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

Rodriguez came full circle last November after the presidential elections when he drew the illustrations for another magazine cover, this one featuring President-elect Joe Biden putting the head back on the Statue of Liberty.

“Now we have a normal presidency. We aren’t aware of what the president is doing every hour of every day. With Trump, when you woke up he was already awake and firing off tweets and the press was publishing that instead of covering other things. The media is to blame for giving Trump so much coverage back in 2016. Even in the New York Times, it was all Trump. You put his name in a headline as clickbait and web traffic goes up. The media went a little bit crazy,” he says. “These days it’s all about attention. Magazines and newspapers have to get people’s attention. It’s the only way to make money.” His work, he adds, is focused on getting an idea across to people from all walks of life, “not just a university professor.”

“Drawing is a way to reach people in a simpler way, it allows people to understand things in the moment. I grew up with people who didn’t go to school, people who worked the land, and I want to communicate with these people, with my father,” Rodriguez says.

Edel Rodriguez’s exhibition at the Carme Center of Contemporary Culture in Valencia.
Edel Rodriguez’s exhibition at the Carme Center of Contemporary Culture in Valencia.Mònica Torres

In the exhibition at the CCCC, called Edel Rodriguez. Agent Orange (which runs until September 12), the artist’s inclination toward the use of bold colors and the influence of his origins can be appreciated. “Cuban art, the poster, comes from the roots of the country,” explains Rodriguez. “Every house is painted in four or five colors, the cars… there is no black or white. These are things that you absorb through your eyes when you are there. When I came to New York, the teachers couldn’t understand why we used stronger colors like red. I couldn’t bring myself to use white, and yellow is yellow. I think in a way it’s just how Cuban people think.” Rodriguez’s exhibition, his first in Spain, was commissioned by Nacho Navarro, who is also an executive producer on the Carceller documentary. The documentary is about to start on a cycle of film festivals and Rodriguez’s show is also working in collaboration with a local festival, Docs de Valencia.

“I’m a peaceful man but if you hit me, I have to defend myself. And the way I have to defend myself against a fascist is through the strength of my work,” says Rodriguez, who also rejects “the two populisms of left and right, both of Fidel Castro and of Donald Trump.”

“I never draw anything that isn’t true; I comment on what is happening, what I think. Propaganda comes when someone decides to lie or when the state tells someone what to draw or what to write.”

A caricature of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco published in ‘La Traca.’
A caricature of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco published in ‘La Traca.’

An admirer of painters such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, the political art of Francisco Goya and Marcel Duchamp’s way of thinking, Rodriguez is currently working on a graphic novel based on his life: his traumatic departure from Cuba in 1980, his spell in a camp for exiles, his life in the US and how his teachers were able to nurture his talent.

The possibilities the genre is opening up excites Rodriguez. “It connects with many age groups. Companies are aware there is a lot of interest, everybody wants to attract young people and it’s a very direct way of communicating,” he explains. “The visual form is special, unique; text won’t reach people who have no interest in reading a book or a newspaper article, but they see something and understand immediately. Visual art and imagery invade people’s inner space, it connects immediately with people in a way that writing can’t. You may have no interest in writing but a drawing can grab your attention in half a second. Even if you don’t like what I want to say, you’ve seen it, and it’s already in your head.”

English version by Rob Train.

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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds

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Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal

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CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.



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